June 11, 2024
Lee Mrkonjic

Closing the retail data gap: Where EDI meets analytics

Seamless data sharing defines the future of efficient and responsive retail supply chains.

Introduced in the 1970s, electronic data exchange (EDI) technology was established to provide a standardized, efficient, and paperless way to exchange business documents with minimal human intervention, and it continues to be widely used throughout the retail industry today. While it was retailers that drove the EDI movement in the first place, the model benefitted all trading and logistics partners, making communication and planning more efficient for suppliers, retailers, shipping carriers, and third-party logistics providers. 

Seamlessly sharing documents and data in a standardized and automatic way makes sense for everyone in the ecosystem, which is the goal of collaborative commerce: a business principle where better data sharing optimizes the entire supply chain, streamlining decision-making, and reducing waste – whether that’s through cost-savings, food or materials waste reduction, time savings, or more.

However, within many CPG organizations today, electronic data exchange (EDI) operations exist in a silo separate from sales and analytics. After all, one sector is responsible for executing orders and shipments, the other for understanding and optimizing demand, and they haven’t historically overlapped in a meaningful way.

But like most things in the evolving world of CPG digitization, these divisions are eroding. 

EDI of today

Time-tested core EDI data formats and operating models remain deeply ingrained in the business systems of major retailers and have been adapted to modern web-based operations. 

As a result, CPG suppliers must have systems in place to comply with the EDI requirements of their customers. If you want to do business with Target, or virtually any retailer of scale, you must have systems in place to comply with their EDI standards

What’s more, expectations have evolved to meet the needs of today’s digital enterprise, and retailers expect real-time information from their suppliers, such as updates the moment a shipment leaves the warehouse, for example. So it’s commonplace to integrate EDI technology with back-office systems like ERP and to use APIs to share order information instantaneously. 

When Crisp acquired Integral Group in January 2023, today our EDI business line, it was with a shared understanding that EDI today is less about documents and more about systems integration.

Our team’s expertise is in understanding all the different ways retailers, suppliers, 3PLs, and carriers operate and exchange information, and enabling seamless interconnectivity (via API, XLM, or even CSV) between them. This is known as our mapping process, allowing advanced integration across multiple vendors and customers. 

Data feedback loop

Alongside our EDI service offerings, Crisp’s foundational product is our leading retail data platform. As mentioned, this brings us to a second core data sector in a CPG – traditionally siloed from the supply chain – involving sales, IT, analytics, and even marketing teams. 

By tapping into harmonized and centralized retail sales and inventory data through Crisp, these teams monitor the flow of product once it leaves the warehouse; to better plan future orders, preventing out-of-stocks or conversely reducing waste; monitor granular sales patterns to optimize retail placements and identify new opportunities; and better target advertising based on real-time regional, even store-level distribution. This feedback loop is where there’s a natural fit for analytics and EDI functions to create synergy. 

For example, analytics teams may have insights into patterns that are valuable to the EDI team. Are sales on the rise on the west coast? Shipping will want to plan for increased orders to those locations and proactively move stock to the most cost-effective warehouses or alter transportation plans.

With real-time insights into how much stores are ordering and to which locations, EDI and supply chain teams gain insight on how to stay ahead of orders, informing inventory allocation and upstream supply chain management. With even greater automation on the rise, this information will continue to click.

Coming full circle: EDI and Crisp

The future of retail will be characterized by real-time, data-driven supply chains. For suppliers, that will require breaking down silos across the business, ensuring key data systems are elevated to the cloud, and that data is shared in an automated way. 

With Crisp, CPG suppliers now have a single-source vendor for both their daily-data sales analytics and an EDI compliance platform, extending supply chain visibility from order to consumer and back again. In a future where EDI and sales analytics pass data back and forth, suppliers will have a full feedback loop to enhance supply chain efficiency and responsiveness. Combining EDI and sales analytics under one roof, on a collaborative platform, you have an end-to-end picture of the supply chain for your brand and can take proactive measures to grow.

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Be Data Ready for Anything

Crisp uses the power of the cloud to connect and analyze all of your data sources in real-time, providing you with the most meaningful insights and trends for your business. When you know exactly what’s in store, you can keep shelves stocked and customers happy while skyrocketing profitability.

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